S.S.R.N. Seaview Technical Manual designed & written by Frederick Barr (book review).

August 26, 2020 | By | Reply More

I’ve known about this book, ‘S.S.R.N. Seaview Technical Manual’, for some time and only pulled a copy recently. Buying it directly from FabgearUSA, will also get you a free copy of two blueprint posters to put on your wall should you choose to. The original version of this book was only 40 pages long but without seeing it, I have no idea what was added in the extra 54 pages.

It starts off an article on the history of real submarines and some of the history of the Seaview itself with some colour photographs that are matt rather than gloss, although I suspect that might have added to the cost of the book.

The biggest surprise was Harrison Nelson couldn’t afford to build the Seaview and even the Nelson Institute was named in his honour than his ownership. Looking at the Nelson Institute, from the first episode, I thought Seaview had an underwater cavern and it doesn’t appear in the map provided. You would also think it had a landing pad for the Flying Sub, even if it was never actually show landing there.

The real reason to buying this book is a look at the Seaview itself. If you’re familiar with ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’, you must surely have some questions about its design and hope whoever wrote a book on the subject would cover these details.

For me, the biggest question is where are the two forward torpedo tubes? The aft ones are shown between the rear twin props and I’m not sure if that would work shooting them out through its wake. However, although noted, author and artist Frederick Barr doesn’t show anything and not even a guess. Standing on the edge is like being in denial and I think even an educated guess would have been acceptable. Hidden forward torpedo tubes would at least work and the missiles dropped down before firing would be something akin to how aircraft fired their missiles.

Then again, no matter how powerful a headlight at the front of the Seaview, you would have to wonder what distance it could see at depth. We know a lot more about the depths now than they knew back in the 1960s.

Certainly the cutaways do not show the true ballast space needed to get the Seaview to the bottom of the sea and the text does not explain the size of the ventilation guttering spread throughout the submarine or how it can be so big to take a crewman crawling through it. Presumably, it is that big to ensure it can be cleaned adequately or to hide whenever the Seaview has been over-run by hostile presence.

I did wonder at having the sick bay on the bottom deck, more so as there are spiral stairwells between decks and how would bringing an injured crewman down one would work. Memory serves me here and there is are a few more standard stairwells to get around this problem. Considering that engineering, missile silos and diving bays are all on the lower deck, presuming this is where the most injuries are likely to happen.

The schematic doesn’t actually show all the quarters arrangements in detail for the 100 crew and one can only wonder as to whether in shifts they employed the known hot bunking/racking so the beds are never empty. It was probably only a budget thing or not seeing the entire submarine to see how many or the crew was active per shift.

A secondary consideration is how divers could radio the Seaview when they wore a standard face mask. The full face masks that are available today could only be imagined back then but no one thought to invent them for underwater films or TV series until decades later. Then again the throat mikes as used on the Flying Sub still needed a button press to use them which sort of messes up how they are used. I suspect had they seen how we have them today in the 1960s they would have looked on with wonder. Shows how even SF TV show people couldn’t have imagined the likes of these.

My esteemed colleague, Pauline Morgan, who has the same book and looked over this review questions the limited number of heads/toilets and showers on-board for the crew and lack of accommodation for female visitors. There also seems to be an absence of a galley so where is the food cooked for the crew mess room?

The instrumentation detail should held the model kit obsessive to cover all the details inside their models, assuming you want to take the top hull off.

There is also a look at the likes of the Mini-Sub, Diving Bell and Flying Sub, although I would question the tonnage of the first two as being two heavy unless he is taking into account ballast. I’m still trying to figure out where the ballast tanks are on the Flying Sub.

There are some things that should have been covered or at least explained, then again we do know a lot more about real submarine life today than back in the 1960s. I mean, regular light throughout and even for a research vessel it was really too spacious inside. Such is the limitations of Irwin Allen but no one doubted him at the time.

The first design of the Seaview was based on the 1961 film and real nuclear submarine design was really very top secret in those times. Looking through the credits, there is no obvious name associated with its design to credit or blame. Considering how well documented the likes of ‘Star Trek’ are, it seems no one has done the same for the Seaview’s iconic design. A little research and you might want to look up http://www.vttbots.com/seaview.html although it doesn’t answer the two main questions from my opening paragraphs but points out the three exterior models of different sizes don’t entirely match in scale although probably to the interior, apart from the front. The quality of the special effects in ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’, mostly down to the incredible L.B. Abbott still stand up mostly over 50 years later.

The point was to make the Seaview look for the mid-1970s, a decade from the time of filming and seemed so far away at the time. Think of any SF TV series that tried the same thing and seen so odd as normal time slipped by and showed we never truly advanced as we should have done had we lived in a Science Fiction world like…well like finally reached when computer technology really did take that jump that we have today.

Would the Seaview look like it does if it was made today? Probably not. There are very few SF shows with submarines in them and the ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’ Seaview was really the first and sleekest. Certainly, short of ‘UFO’s Skydiver, none of them ever had anything like the Flying Sub. Just in case you wondering about other submarine TV shows, don’t forget ‘Stingray’ (1965) and its enemy Terror Fish , ‘Thunderbirds’ (1966-67) with Thunderbird 4, the Cetacean from ‘Man From Atlantis’ (1977-78) and Seaquest RSV (1993-96). All of them suffer similar problems, especially where ballast is concerned and the depths they can reach.

An interesting attempt with this and probably grounds for improvement in future.

GF Willmetts

August 2020

(pub: FabgearUSA, 2015. 96 page illustrated softcover. Price: $29.95 (US))

check out website: https://www.fabgearusa.com/seaview-technical-manual-2-poster-bonus/

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Category: Movie books

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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